Vegas, January 2011 Part II: Living In The Sports Book

Part I is here, in case you’re behind.

The crew rallied Saturday morning and we headed down to breakfast at Aria’s 24 hour cafe – the same place I’d eaten less than 8 hours earlier.  The breakfast burrito was perfectly adequate, but Dov and JR put me on uber-Bajungi tilt by heading off to the spa for massages and steams and other absolutely ridiculous stuff that positively should not be done while you’re in Vegas with your friends and the NFL games are starting. 
The California Kid, Blazer and I headed to the sports book and used our expertise to secure seats, including seats for our spa-going compatriots who would be arriving late.  Do my readers see what I’m up against?  Big Show had ditched me, stuck all the way on the other end of the strip with his wife, and I was hanging out with some Brobos (Brooklyn Bohemians! It’s like a hipster, only gayer – not that there’s anything wrong with that) who ditched Sportsbook Saturday in favor of the mother f’n SPA!  Fortunately, the Cali Kid (CK) was bringing it hard, and Blazer was testing his new sports betting service that he and a friend were developing.  Blazer’s boy had a “model” for sports, and we christened him The Guru. Despite my warnings that it was impossible to beat sports betting, Guru’s picks went something like 18-4 on Saturday – across NFL, NBA, and college hoops.  And I”m not exaggerating.
CK and I were down on the Ravens getting 3 1/2 points, and we had the game in the bag at halftime.   Dov arrived and treated the sports book to an extended version of the Ray Lewis signature dance, but that seemed to put the Kaibash on us.   Even after Joey Flacco came out in the second half and gave the game away, our bet was still looking like a couldn’t lose, even after Baltimore had a punt return TD called back on what may have been the worst holding call in the history of professional football.  But still, even after that, we still couldn’t lose, as the game was tied and the Steelers were driving for a game winning field goal, which would mean we’d win our bet.  Alternatively, the game would go to overtime and we’d be sitting pretty.  All we needed was for Baltimore no NOT give up a 60 yard bomb on third and 19.  But that’s exactly what happened.  Bajungi tilt couldn’t begin to describe the situation.
In the late game we all pounded the Green Bay – Atlanta OVER, which started off slow but then turned into a total layup.  Unfortunately, I also got down on the Falcons, and again on the Falcons in the second half, nullifying my winnings from the TOTAL bet.  The Aria sports book is beautiful, but they really run it like a profit center.  While most casinos give you a drink ticket for roughly every $50 in bets, and the waitresses also cut you some slack after a while, Aria wanted $150 in bets (actually, they wanted minimum $150 single bets!) per free drink ticket, and the waitresses had no leeway – I think they had to pay for the drinks as the picked them up, as they required drink tickets before hand, and returned with a printed out receipt for each drink.  Beers were about $7, and mixed drinks were in the neighborhood of $10.    I took it very slow, paying $10 for a liter of Fiji, while the California Kid made up for my slack by pounding a wide array of cocktails. 
After the games, we sought out some negative EV in the Aria pits, finding a double deck blackjack game to dominate.  Most poker players are familiar with the concept of table-side massage in the poker room, but Aria brought this concept to the casino pit!  Even at $2 a minute, when you’re betting $50 a hand, how can you not get a 20 minute massage?  The masseuse was actually really good, too, lulling me into a coma as I dropped 6 units in the game before heading up to the room to change for dinner.
The Brobos had booked a foodie French dinner at Andre’s in the Monte Carlo, which is adjacent to Aria, yet still a 25 minute walk.  I’ve written many times about the signature smell at the Venetian, which drives me crazy in a bad way, but Monte Carlo’s signature smell was miles worse. It was like a heavily perfumed diaper powder or hand lotion.  It made my eyes sting.  Andre’s was good food, highlighted by the waiter, who described every dish in a thick Spanish accent, “eeees AMAZING.”  “Is there anything that’s not amazing?”  I cracked, but withdrew the question quickly upon seeing his confusion.  After dinner we rejoined upstairs to a nice little cigar/whiskey bar for an aperitif, before making our way back out to the jungle that is the Aria casino floor.
I wandered by the poker room and saw a 1-2 half NL hold’em, half pot limit omaha game.  How could that be a bad idea at 3am?  I sat down and was sad to watch the two fish immediately get up, which left me, a not-so-fearsome player on my left, a rocky pro on my right and a Finnish PLO assassin two to my right.
“Do you guys want to just make it PLO?”  One of them suggested.  “Suuuuuure.”  Why not?  I have never booked a winning session in this game (0 for 2), but it provides action at least.  “How about a mandatory $5 straddle?”  the other suggested.
I laughed. Sure. No problem. I managed to get stacked within 40 minutes, after I got all in on the flop with a flush draw and a straight wrap – and was drawing DEAD!  That’s actually somewhat tough to do in 4 handed PLO, probably, and it went like this:  I had 2-3-4-6 double suited (spades/hearts) on a flop of 5-7-9 with two spades.  I had the 6-2 of spades, led out, and called a pot-sized reraise that put me all in, explaining “Maybe I”ll get lucky.”  My opponent had 6-8 with bigger spades.  Nice hand sir!  I headed up to bed to regroup.
Sunday morning me and Dov woke up to find that the crew in the adjoining room had ordered room service breakfast.  We were way late for the 10am PST Bears-Seahawks game, so Dov and I hit the buffet at Aria, which looked better than it tasted.  We then executed a perfect “Operation Seats” in the sportsbook, securing ample space for the big Pats-Jets showdown.  I was repping the Steve Grogan throwback jersey, and held down a few seats with a nice angle for the big screen.  Dov made eye contact with me from another side of the room, and I summonsed him, but he shook his head and made a bird motion, implying that there were a bunch of Seahawks fans who were getting ready to leave and we could take their seats too.
Cali Kid, JR and Blazer joined us.  Blazer had the Jets as a Guru pick, while Dov and I bet the over.  I didn’t want to lay the 9 points, and I was trying to find a bet that I couldn’t lose in the unlikely scenario that my Patriots managed to lose the game.  I decided that there was no way that the Jets would win if there weren’t a lot of points scored, so I bet the over (I just couldn’t bring myself to bet the Jets).   We were drawing dead the entire game yet somehow got there in a miracle 4th quarter scoring spree.  Erik the Nit (who is not actually a nit, he would like me to clarify) needed to get some action on the second half over, and asked us for the halftime total. “21 1/2” we each told him via text.  He called Dov with an order to get $300 on the over ASAP.  We had a problem though, as the line was moving like lightening.  22.  23.  Everyone was hammering the over, and Dov was still 3rd in line.  I called Erik and said “dude – the numbers are flickering on the screen – it’s going crazy – 23 now – WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO?”  “MARKET ORDER! BUY IT!” He replied, and I gave Dov the signal.  Erik ended up with a winning ticket at 2nd half over 23.  Oh, that reminds me – the Aria was not sticklers about people using cell phones in the sports book.  One guy even had an Ipad in there.  Usually that’s a big no-no.
As the Patriots drove for a late touchdown that was meaningless to everyone in the world who hadn’t bet on the game’s total, I muttered “this place is going to EXPLODE if the Pats score.”  The guy next to me groaned “not me, I have the under.”   I was wrong though, as Brady’s touchdown pass was greeted with utter silence except for me getting up and jumping into the air while screaming, as Dov came flying in from 15 yards behind me an did a superfly over the chairs in celebration.  We spent 5 minutes watching people bite it on the Aria sports book’s camouflaged step before we left.
We had planned to head downtown to kick it old school on Sunday night, and after ditching the Grogan throwback, we cabbed it to the Venetian to dominate some double deck blackjack and pick up Big Show.  The Cali Kid put the dealer on bajungi tilt by tucking a blackjack facedown, but he got away with it by feigning ignorance, which he set up nicely by demonstrating novice tendencies earlier.  “The customer is always right!” CK fake-yelled at the dealer.  After dominating the game for 2 hours we headed downtown to the Golden Nugget – Steve Wynn’s original baby.  
We ended up at some steakhouse which I believe was in the California.  To get there, we had to walk around the corner, off Fremont street, which isn’t the best neighborhood.  We were so out of place that a stretch limo hummer pulled up and asked us if we needed a ride.  That wasn’t the unusual part.  When we declined, he urged “are you SURE?”  Fortunately, the Brobos all had Iphones with navigation, and we followed the little red dots to the California.  We implemented the Buddy System – only travel in pairs down here – including restroom trips out in the casino’s general population, away from the confines of the steakhouse.  Amazingly, even here, the steakhouse had center strip prices – $45 or so for steaks – but we all indulged in their secret special – 22 ounce porterhouse, salad, desert, sides, for $22!
It was probably around 10:30pm by now, and there was only one other occupied table in the restaurant.  When the waitstaff brought out desert for them while singing Happy Birthday, we joined in for a raucous rendition.  The peach melba birthday desert looked pretty good, and the guy explained to me “When I was in high school, peach melba meant something dirty.”  I eyed him quizzically, and he told me “look it up,” which I did, to no avail.
Big Show and his wife headed back to the Venetian, while the Brobos crew went to Brobos heaven, aka, the Cosmopolitan.  “How do you say “hooker bar” in Russian?” I asked out loud, and Dov replied “BAR,” making everyone laugh.  We had a round of drinks at one of the many bars, and Dov actually argued with the waitress when she brought our bill, insisting that it couldn’t be ours because it was too cheap!  “The beers are only $5,” the waitress replied, and we were only too happy to comply.
Dov continued to pound out jokes about the Euro-hipster ambiance at the Cosmo, explaining that at their sports book you could only bet on soccer and tennis.   “No cricket?” I inquired, “of course – seasonal,” he replied.  “You should see it up there – they have a bronze statue of Novan Djokavic,”  and we laughed at our own jokes.  Nearing 4am, we tired of the scene, and exited the way we had arrived, into the underground Cosmo cab staging area, which I knew wasn’t right.  We were staring right into our room at Aria – literally, all  we needed was a grappling hook – but there was no way to get there. We wandered around the multi-lane side highway for 20 minutes before I bailed and walked back through Cosmo, up the stairs, and through the maze that is the Crystals shops.  Crystals is Aria’s super high end retail stores, and the vacancies are staggering.  I would love to see the financials for these stores – the rents and revenues – and for the mall real estate too.
I plopped down in bed and prepared for the final 1/2 day in Vegas.

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